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covid-19 (21)

Bronze Level Contributor

EPA

The UK is making "good progress" in developing a testing regime to reduce the quarantine period for international arrivals, the transport secretary has said.

The "test and release" programme could allow a "much reduced" self-isolation period, Grant Shapps said.

It is currently 14 days for many international arrivals.

Mr Shapps also said rapid tests being used in Liverpool could "open the way" for quarantine-free air travel.

Mr Shapps told an airport industry conference that the private sector would provide single tests given to passengers as part of a "test and release" programme.

"Beyond the lockdown, this should encourage many more people to book flights with confidence knowing there is an option that allows them to shorten self isolation," he said.

He added that the UK was looking with partner countries at self-isolation and testing options that could be carried out before departure.

Mr Shapps added that quick-turnaround tests being trialled in Liverpool gave "some hope for optimism" as they could "open the way for non-quarantine air travel".

Tests would be paid for by passengers but the Department for Transport would not comment on how much it might cost.

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The air travel industry has been hit hard by the drop in passenger numbers since the start of the pandemic, with airlines such as British Airways and EasyJet cutting thousands of jobs.

Airline and airport groups have called on governments around the world to provide financial support for the struggling industry.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon told the conference it was "inconceivable" the government had not taken more action to limit job losses across the aviation industry, adding that Mr Shapps's "warm words" needed "to be translated into action".

Anyone arriving into the UK must self-isolate for 14 days unless travelling from a country listed by the government, with some exceptions for certain occupations.

The mass coronavirus testing programme launched in Liverpool last week is the first trial of whole-city testing in England. All residents are being offered regular Covid-19 tests - whether or not they have symptoms.

Children aged 11 and over will be tested in schools as part of the scheme, the city's council has said.

The pilot includes a mix of existing swab tests and the new lateral flow tests - which can provide a result within an hour without the need to use a lab.

Earlier, Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast the new "lateral flow" test was available to everyone in Liverpool and could be a "major breakthrough" if successful.

"A test is only as good as the speed with which you can turn a result around," he said.

"What we've really been focusing on more recently is a faster test, so that people can act more quickly to prevent the spread of the virus so this, if we can make it work, is a major breakthrough."

BBC health and science correspondent James Gallagher said rapid or "lateral flow" tests needed high levels of the virus in the body to work. It is not yet clear how good they are at catching people in the early stages of the infection, when the virus is still taking hold.

They are similar to pregnancy tests and are easy, cheap and fast.

Fluid from a nasal swab or saliva goes on to one end of the test, then a marking appears if the person is positive.

Originally published by
BBC | November 9, 2020

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Silver Level Contributor

Image: Jacob King

Covid tests with results within an hour are being piloted in universities - which could help students in England get home for Christmas.

More than a million students will have to travel from their term-time accommodation in December.

This has raised concerns about spreading coronavirus as students move across the country between areas with different levels of infection.

In Scotland universities could switch to more online teaching in January.

Christmas migration

Universities have called for a testing system with a rapid turnaround of results.

But there have been questions about the feasibility of how quickly this could be scaled up - and how to avoid what the SAGE scientific advisory group calls the "significant risk" of students causing outbreaks by moving for Christmas and New Year.

De Montfort and Durham universities are now running pilot projects for rapid Covid testing, including identifying those who might be infectious but have no symptoms.

 

In England, about 1.2 million students are expected to move in December from a university to a home address in another region, where there might be different levels of infection and restrictions.

This includes 200,000 students travelling away from universities in London, 235,000 from the south east, 120,000 leaving the north west, 123,000 out of Yorkshire and Humber and 120,000 from the West Midlands.

In Scotland, 150,000 students will be travelling home.

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Students in Scotland have protested about how they are being treated in the pandemic - Image: Jane Barlow

A decision, involving all four devolved governments and education ministries in the UK, is awaited on the logistics of getting students home for Christmas, in a way that will not cause Covid outbreaks.

So far this term there have been virus cases in 118 universities across the UK, according to tracking by the Unicovid website, with tens of thousands of students having to self-isolate.

Staggered end of term

England's Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has proposed an early end to teaching in person, creating a two-week buffer in which to get students home for the holidays.

In Scotland, Education Secretary John Swinney has suggested a staggered end of term and has not ruled out students being kept in universities over the break, if "we have a situation where the virus has not been controlled".

Universities, who would face the challenge of keeping students in Christmas isolation, have called for a faster system of mass testing.

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Universities want tests with a rapid turnaround of results - Image: PA Media

"Enhanced testing capacity - including faster turnaround of results and effective contact tracing - will help to contain outbreaks at universities and limit transmission to the wider community," says a Universities UK spokesman.

The 'lateral flow tests' now being piloted are intended to find out whether someone has "high enough levels of Covid-19 in their body to make them infectious to others", says a statement from Durham University.

Using a nose and throat swab, the tests would be self-administered and would not need a laboratory to process the results.

Switching to online

The Department for Health and Social Care says the aim of the pilots would be to "turn around rapid results within an hour at the location of the test".

And the DHSC says the pilots at Durham and De Montfort will see how such tests could be used "at scale".

Durham says the pilot project, beginning this week for staff and students in two of its colleges, will be able to deliver results within 20 to 30 minutes.

Once students have been safely removed from university in December there will then be questions about how they can be brought back in January, without triggering another wave of campus outbreaks.

The Scottish government says there could be more online teaching at the start of next term and in areas of "high prevalence" of infection in-person teaching might be reserved for those taking subjects which needed hands-on training.

The UCU lecturers' union has threatened legal action against the continuing use of in-person teaching, while the SAGE advisory group has called for as much teaching as possible to be online.

The DHSC says the testing pilots are "building the foundations for a mass testing programme" which could also help reduce the number of school pupils having to be sent home in Covid outbreaks.

Originally published by
Sean Coughlan | October 27, 2020
BBC News

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Silver Level Contributor

Researchers are set to explore a human challenge study with the virus that causes COVID-19, the first such study anywhere in the world.

The Human Challenge Programme is a partnership between Imperial College London, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), hVIVO, a leading clinical company with expertise in viral human challenge models, and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

The researchers hope that the work will ultimately help to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, mitigate its impact and reduce deaths from COVID-19.

The first stage of the project will explore the feasibility of exposing healthy volunteers to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The study would recruit volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 with no previous history or symptoms of COVID-19, no underlying health conditions and no known adverse risk factors for COVID-19, such as heart disease, diabetes or obesity.

The UK’s experience and expertise in human challenge trials as well as in wider COVID-19 science will help us tackle the pandemic, benefiting people in the UK and worldwideDr Chris ChiuImperial College London

In this initial phase, the aim will be to discover the smallest amount of virus it takes to cause a person to develop COVID-19. This is known as a virus characterisation study.

Once this first phase is completed, clinical researchers aim to use this human challenge model to study how vaccines work in the body to stop or prevent COVID-19, to look at potential treatments and study the immune response.

Human challenge studies help clinical researchers establish which vaccines are most likely to succeed. As the prevalence of COVID-19 rises and falls in populations, it can make it difficult for traditional vaccine trials to assess if vaccines work, because volunteers receiving the vaccine may not be naturally exposed to the virus. Because a human challenge study deliberately infects the volunteers it should be possible for scientists to begin to establish efficacy very quickly, by testing if those who have had a vaccine are less likely to become infected with the virus.

Human challenge studies also make it possible for scientists to compare the efficacy of vaccine candidates by testing them side by side to establish which is more effective. At this early stage no specific vaccine candidates for the human challenge trials have been confirmed.

First steps

Initially, researchers will assess what amount of virus is needed to cause infection and elicit an immune response by slowly increasing the viral dose to which small groups of volunteers are exposed. The proportion of participants becoming infected and the amount of virus that they subsequently shed will be tracked to better understand the course of infection.

These ground-breaking but carefully controlled studies mark an important next step in building on our understanding of the virus and ... will ultimately help in beginning our return to normal lifeAlok SharmaUK Business Secretary

As higher viral doses may be linked to more severe outcomes, the researchers are aiming to infect volunteers with the lowest possible dose to trigger viral replication but minimise symptoms.

Before leaving the residential clinical facility, volunteers would be required to test negative for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in two separate laboratory tests, highly sensitive to the presence of virus.

Dr Chris Chiu, from the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London and lead researcher on the human challenge studies, said: “Human challenge studies can increase our understanding of COVID-19 in unique ways and accelerate development of the many potential new COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

“Our number one priority is the safety of the volunteers. My team has been safely running human challenge studies with other respiratory viruses for over 10 years. No study is completely risk free, but the Human Challenge Programme partners will be working hard to ensure we make the risks as low as we possibly can.

“The UK’s experience and expertise in human challenge trials as well as in wider COVID-19 science will help us tackle the pandemic, benefiting people in the UK and worldwide."

The human challenge study will be reviewed by a specially convened ethics committee before any volunteers are enrolled and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), an exemplar globally of medicines and device regulation, will be asked to approve the study before it is conducted.

Viral insights 

Since the start of the global pandemic, doctors have learned a great deal about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads and which groups may be at increased risk, as well as gaining clinical insights into treatments which can reduce the severity of disease and its complications.

However, despite these advances, there remain very few therapies for treating patients with COVID-19 and there is no effective vaccine available. Human challenge studies could be a crucial component of progressing research into treating and preventing the disease.

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Human challenge studies could help clinical researchers to establish which COVID-19 vaccines are most likely to succeed. (Image: Shutterstock)

Professor Peter Openshaw, co-investigator on the study and Director of the MRC-funded Human Challenge Consortium (HIC-Vac) at Imperial College London said: “Deliberately infecting volunteers with a known human pathogen is never undertaken lightly. However, such studies are enormously informative about a disease, even one so well studied as COVID-19.

“It is really vital that we move as fast as possible towards getting effective vaccines and other treatments for COVID-19, and challenge studies have the potential to accelerate and de-risk the development of novel drugs and vaccines. These studies form a part of the global effort and play to a unique strength that we have at Imperial and in the UK”.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “We are doing everything we can to fight coronavirus, including backing our best and brightest scientists and researchers in their hunt for a safe and effective vaccine.

“The funding announced today for these ground-breaking but carefully controlled studies marks an important next step in building on our understanding of the virus and accelerating the development of our most promising vaccines which will ultimately help in beginning our return to normal life.”

The study is expected to begin early next year, with further details of volunteer recruitment and the study design to be published in the coming months.

Anyone interested in registering their interest in future COVID-19 human challenge study research should visit www.UKCovidChallenge.com

Originally published by
Ryan O'Hare | October 20, 2020
Imperial College London

Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.

Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.

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Gold Level Contributor

Image: Unsplash - Joshua Fuller

LONDON (AP) — A medical drone delivery service founded by trainee doctors that aims to transport coronavirus samples, test kits and protective equipment between hospitals has won the backing of Britain’s Space Agency.

The start-up project can help free up healthcare staff, avoid courier waiting times and minimize the risk of virus transmission, authorities said Saturday.

Trainee doctors Hammad Jeilani and Christopher Law are trialing “dronepad” infrastructure so the miniature aircraft can take off from and land on hospitals, laboratories and warehouses. They are planning to scale up the trials and set up a nationwide network of secure air corridors to enable the drone delivery service to work safely across National Health Service sites.

The hybrid drones — which have the rotors of a typical drone and the wings of a plane — can carry a maximum of 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) and fly about 60 miles (96 kilometers.)

The drone project is among others set to share 1.3 million pounds ($1.7 million) of funding from the U.K. Space Agency and the European Space Agency to businesses developing space-based solutions for challenges created by Covid-19.

Originally published by
The Associated Press | October 16, 2020

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Silver Level Contributor

Barclays to send staff back to working from home

Image: Getty Images

Barclays will tell "hundreds" of UK staff who had gone back to the office to return to working from home.

The bank told the BBC it was making the move following the latest guidance from the government that people should work at home when they can.

About 1,000 Barclays employees worldwide returned to the office over the summer.

French bank Societe Generale and the insurance market Lloyd's of London also told their UK staff to work from home.

Barclays said it would not be releasing a country-specific number on those returning to work from home.

The bank had said it would carry out a "gradual" return to the office in October, after chief executive Jess Staley signalled that he wanted employees working from home during the pandemic to return to the office "over time".

"It is important to get people back together in physical concentrations," he told Bloomberg TV in July.

However, not all banks take the same view. NatWest has said staff can continue to work from home until next year.

On Tuesday, Societe Generale said it was also "adapting its position in line with UK government guidance", without stating the number of workers in its London offices would now work from home.

Lloyd's of London said it had told its 800 directly employed staff to work from home but that this did not apply to the independent brokers who use its Lime Street headquarters.

"Lloyd's underwriting room is certified as a Covid-secure environment and will remain open for market participants," the company said.

'Crushing blows'

Business groups have reacted with dismay to the prime minister's call for people to work at home where they can.

The CBI said that it was a "crushing" blow that would have a "devastating impact".

It marks a change in policy following a government advertising campaign to get people back to work where safe.

Campaign group London First said it would discourage people from returning to workplaces and risk "derailing an already fragile recovery".

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn told the BBC: "We know we need to avoid a second national lockdown at all if we possibly can, but I have to say these are crushing blows.

"The impact on people who are coming back into their offices, the impact on city centres, so dependent on the bustle of city life, our creative industries - this will have a devastating impact on people and businesses.

"And I think that the answer for business, and what I'm hearing in my conversations this morning, is make it a short, sharp shock if it has to happen."

Appearing on the Emma Barnett Show on Radio 5 live, she said she was speaking to the programme from her office and that "about 15%" of her people were in.

"They're excited about coming back, we need to plan to bring more people back. It's good for morale, it's good for learning, it's good for creativity and so many businesses are feeling that, so this is a backward move that won't be welcomed, and let's make it as short as it needs to be."

"The new restrictions must be regularly reviewed to minimise the damage to the economy while safeguarding the health of the nation in the round - not just physical health, but mental health and our economic health, said London First chief executive Jasmine Whitbread.

She also called for the government to extend business rates relief and to introduce a "targeted" version of the furlough scheme, which is due to end on 31 October.

As well as the change in stance on working from home, Boris Johnson also confirmed that pubs and restaurants in England will have to close at 22:00 from Thursday to stop the spread of the coronavirus. He warned that the new measures could last up to six months.

Ms Whitbread said: "A targeted version of the furlough scheme would help those hardest hit in leisure, retail and hospitality."

Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said the spread of coronavirus was not wholly predictable, but the "back and forth" on office working would cause "frustration".

He added: "Business leaders are eager for the government to focus on the foundations, issues like childcare, public transport, and getting the testing system firing on all cylinders."

Originally published by
BBC | September 22, 2020

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Gold Level Contributor

The impact of the coronavirus in Europe hit the United Kingdom (U.K.) especially hard.

The Wall Street Journal reported England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland saw its gross domestic product, the value of goods and services, shrink more than 20 percent in the second quarter (Q2) to an annualized rate of nearly 60 percent as the nations recorded the highest death toll from COVID-19, according to the Office for National Statistics, the independent agency responsible for collecting data on the economy and its residents.

“It’s been a rough few months,” Richard Swart, global sales and quality director at Berger Global, a Durham, England-based unit of Ringmetall AG, the German manufacturer for the packaging industry, told the WSJ.

May and June sales fell by as much as 40 percent depending on the industry being supplied, he said. While sales improved in July and August, they remain sporadic as customers continue to be uncertain, he added.

“Everybody clings to the hope that there will be a vaccine, that’s the ultimate fix,” Swart told the newspaper.

While the region has seen lockdown restrictions ease and workers return to factories and offices, the Bank of England (BOE) has warned that it could take 17 months to regain the ground lost during the pandemic.

In contrast, the U.S. and Germany lost about 10 percent of their output, Italy 12 percent, France 14 percent and Spain 19 percent. U.K. officials ordered the economy to shutter for most of Q2, starting in late March weeks after other European countries, and gradually eased restrictions starting in late May, the WSJ reported.

One of the factors that contributed to the U.K.’s sinking economy is the region depends on activities that require personal contact. The BOE estimated spending on movie or theater tickets, dining out, or attending sporting events, comprise 13 percent of Britain’s total output, compared with 11 percent in the U.S. and 10 percent in Europe.

The coronavirus took its toll in the U.K. with 46,000 deaths, the highest tally in Europe and the fourth largest in the world after the U.S., Brazil and Mexico.

That’s equivalent to nearly 700 deaths per million residents, exceeding the toll in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the U.S. on a per capita basis, the WSJ reported.

“We responded really late, and in a chaotic manner,” Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh told the newspaper.

Officials of the U.K. government have insisted they acted swiftly and in line with scientific advice.

Originally published
PYMNTS
 

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Silver Level Contributor

Businesses will have access to expert advice on unprecedented issues to cope with challenges faced during the pandemic

As lockdown measures begin to ease, thousands of businesses across the UK are preparing to return to normal operations after shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, many businesses may find it difficult to bounce back. The government has announced a new £20 million package to support the recovery of small businesses following the coronavirus pandemic, set to include a specialised programme rolled out in business schools across the country. 

The government has partnered with the Small Business Charter to provide a specialised programme for leaders of small businesses, giving them the tools to survive and thrive in a post-coronavirus world. This new scheme comes as part of a £20million package the government is providing to help small businesses in the long term. The Small Business Leadership Programme will be held by some of the top business schools around the country, who will create peer groups in order to develop stronger leadership, innovation, operational efficiency, marketing and finance to encourage future growth and resilience in today’s climate. 

All business schools delivering the programme have been accredited by the Small Business Charter (SBC), a national accreditation awarded by small businesses to business schools who excel in supporting SMEs and the local economy. Business leaders will be granted access to small business and management experts at some of the UK’s leading business schools. The Small Business Leadership Programme is free and fully funded by the Government to enhance small business resilience and recovery from the impact of COVID-19 and develop the potential for future growth and productivity. 

The programme will be delivered online through a course of eight 90-minute webinars over 10 weeks. Business leaders will learn how to effectively tackle the current crises and the programme will also allow businesses to strengthen their business network. Participants will develop strategic leadership skills and the confidence to make informed decisions and learn tips on how to boost business performance for the future. The programme will begin in September 2020 and end in January 2021. 

This programme comes at a time of mass uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has put a dent on the UK’s economy. Now, directors and CEOs of small companies are facing immense pressure as they navigate unchartered waters. According to a recent McKinsey online survey of UK SMEs, 80 per cent of small businesses reported their revenues were declining in June 2020.  

“The effects of COVID-19 have been particularly damaging for small businesses and providing their leaders with the experience and knowledge to survive and thrive will be essential for the future success of the country,” Anne Kiem OBE, Executive Director of the Small Business Charter and CEO of Chartered Association of Business Schools. “While cash injections are important, for the long-term, business leaders need the skills to ensure they and their businesses are resilient and can grow throughout this period and beyond. Accessing experts from the world-leading business schools we have in this country will be an essential resource for businesses in the months and years to come.”  

“Half of small businesses in the UK expect revenues to drop by more than a half following the coronavirus pandemic,” Michelle Ovens MBE, Chair of the Small Business Charter said. “Small businesses are finding themselves under a huge amount of pressure from the complexities of opening up again, social distancing, protecting staff and customers, drop in footfall and spend across the board. This new programme is a fantastic opportunity with the greatest business minds to ensure business leaders can get the expertise and knowledge they need to recover and thrive.” 

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a series of challenges for SMEs as they navigate through the uncertainty of the pandemic. With the tools and support in place, small businesses can access resources and advice to help them bounce back from this difficult time.

Originallyy published by
Latifa Yedroudj | August 5, 2020
elite business

 

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Silver Level Contributor

Image: Getty Images

The UK economy could take until 2024 to return to the size it was before the coronavirus lockdown, according to analysis from the EY Item Club.

The forecasters, who use a similar economic model to the Treasury, suggest unemployment will rise to 9% from 3.9%.

They also estimate the economy will shrink by 11.5% this year, worse than the 8% they predicted only a month ago.

Consumers have been more cautious than expected, they said, while low business investment will dampen growth.

As a result, they now expect the post-coronavirus economic recovery to take 18 months longer than previously forecast.

However, the Item Club says it is early days and useful data has only recently been made available.

“Unsurprisingly, without hard data, a wide range of views on the performance and outlook for the UK economy emerged,” said Mark Gregory, UK chief economist at EY.

Last week, the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane told MPs the UK economy had “clawed back” about half the fall in output it saw during the peak of the coronavirus lockdown in March and April.

There had been a V-shaped “bounceback”, he said, referring to the shape that indicates a rapid economic recovery.

Last month, Mr Haldane said the economy was “on track for a quick recovery”.

However, other economists have expressed doubts about the potential for such a swift recovery in activity.

“Even though lockdown restrictions are easing, consumer caution has been much more pronounced than expected,” said Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club.

“We believe that consumer confidence is one of three key factors likely to weigh on the UK economy over the rest of the year, alongside the impact of rising unemployment and low levels of business investment.

“The UK economy may be past its low point but it is looking increasingly likely that the climb back is going to be a lot longer than expected.”

The government has moved to cut taxes, support wages and offer incentives to spend in an effort to keep the economy going and encourage consumers to spend.

Earlier this month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak cut VAT on hospitality and promised to pay firms a £1,000 bonus for every staff member kept on for three months when the furlough scheme ends in October.

But he also conceded that not every job would be saved, and his £30bn package was criticised for helping certain sectors, such as restaurants and tourism, but ignoring others.

Last month, the Bank of England said it would pump an extra £100bn into the UK economy to help fight the “unprecedented” coronavirus-induced downturn.

Originally published by
Western Capital News | July 27, 2020

 

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Gold Level Contributor

Analysis examines UK's beach capacity

Bournemouth beach has space for an estimated 78,628 socially-distanced visitors

In view of recent overcrowding following the easing of lockdown, Esri UK has explored how many people could hypothetically fit on some of the country’s most popular beaches using social distancing guidelines.

Spatial analysis of 10 of the UK’s most popular beaches by geographic information system (GIS) software and location intelligence specialist, Esri UK, has revealed how many people could hypothetically fit on the sand, while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Scenes in Bournemouth

 The analysis follows scenes in Bournemouth, last month, where 500,000 people, reportedly, descended onto the beach. At the specified two metres apart, Esri UK’s analysis found that only an estimated 78,628 people could fit. 

The method used placed one person inside a 2-metre diameter circle but with an additional 2 metres of space between each circle, to represent a hypothetical estimation of beach capacity, allowing some space for people to move around. 

Other beaches surveyed included Brighton (61,723 capacity), Newquay (23,777), Barafundle (3,246) and Luskentyre (24,243).

The figures are released ahead of pubs, restaurants and other hospitality and leisure businesses reopening this weekend in England, when it is expected that many popular destinations like beaches and parks will become extremely busy again.

“We wanted to examine how many people could hypothetically fit on a beach ahead of the main UK holiday season,” said Sam Bark, cartographer at Esri UK. “Spatial analysis can help give local authorities and other organisations a rapid indication of capacity, for a range of different spaces in these unprecedented times, not just beaches, such as green space or even indoors.

Continue Reading

Originally published by
Smart Cities World News Team | July 3, 2020
Smart Cities World

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Gold Level Contributor

Vodafone tips 5G to aid UK Covid-19 recovery

Vodafone UK called on the government to prioritise 5G rollout as part of its Covid-19 (coronavirus) recovery plan, as it published a new report predicting the technology could add £158 billion to the economy over the next decade.

The operator stated research for its Levelling up: How 5G can boost productivity across the UK report, which it commissioned in association with consultancy WPI Economics, showed the technology could deliver the economic boost by transforming the way the public access vital services.

Vodafone used the report to mark one year since the launch of its 5G network in the UK, and said investment in 5G could lead to the creation of new jobs and business opportunities, as well as improve the provision of public services.

It calculated the cumulative economic benefits to UK output stand at more than £38 billion in the five years to 2025, and at more than €120 billion from then to 2030.

However, to ensure 5G delivers the maximum financial impact, the operator called on the government to make digital services central to its economic recovery plan by creating the policy, procurement and an investment environment to support faster rollout of the technology.

Nick Jeffery, CEO of Vodafone UK, said 5G will play a “vital role” as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is crucial to recognise the role that fast and reliable connectivity will play in unlocking the digital potential that exist in every nation and region across the UK,” he said.

Vodafone’s 5G services are currently available in 44 locations across the UK.

Originally published by
Kavit Majithia | June 29, 2020
Mobile World Live

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Silver Level Contributor

Mastercard has joined a coalition working to offer immediate support to digitally and financially excluded people in the UK, focusing on those in poverty hit hardest by the impact of Covid-19.

The payments giant is joined in the 'Leave Nobody in the Dark' campaign by the Good Things Foundation, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation social change organisation, The Aple Collective of people with experience of poverty, and Clean Slate Training & Employment CIC.

In the UK, it is estimated that 11.7 million people lack basic digital skills and that there are an estimated 1.9 million households with no internet access.

This digital divide is most pronounced for those living in poverty; almost half of those with an income below £11,500 lack essential digital skills compared to less than 11% of those with an income over £25,000.

Covid-19 is exacerbating the problem: An estimated 6 million people have fallen behind on a household bill due to coronavirus, and data from Citizen's Advice shows that the least digitally engaged are more likely to be paying higher household bills irrespective of income, household or age.

The new coalition is aiming to address this through a new self-help portal for those who have limited digital skills to boost their online confidence and engage with free, trusted online support around money, security, benefits and debt.

The programme is also offering devices, data and digital skills support to people in poverty, and practical money help and improved digital confidence, delivered remotely by Clean Slate and other community partners.

Kelly Devine, divisional president, Mastercard UK & Ireland, says: "To recover from Covid-19 in a long-term, sustainable way, we have to make sure that everyone is included. Helping people access the digital economy, and feel confident in doing so, is a critical part of that."
 
Originally published by
Finextra
June 24, 2020
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Silver Level Contributor

The first phase of the screening trial will gather 14,000 participants, including healthcare workers, their households and more. (Getty/RossHelen)

The U.K. government will begin testing a new, swabless coronavirus test, designed to be completed at home on a weekly basis by spitting into a collection tube.

The first phase of the screening trial will gather 14,000 participants—including healthcare workers, their households and more—run by the University of Southampton, the local government and the National Health Service (NHS). Test kits will be delivered and collected every week, with results set to be turned around within 48 hours. 

“Saliva testing could potentially make it even easier for people to take coronavirus tests at home, without having to use swabs,” said the U.K.’s health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock. “This trial will also help us learn if routine, at-home testing could pick up cases of the virus earlier.”

The trial will run for up to four weeks, in addition to ongoing, routine testing of asymptomatic healthcare staff. Any positive COVID-19 results will be shared with the NHS’ contract tracing program, to help isolate cases before they spread.

“We will initially invite Southampton’s 800-strong GP practice workforce and their households to take part, followed by some other essential key workers and some University of Southampton staff and students as we evaluate the logistics needed for regular testing of large population groups,” said Debbie Chase, director of public health for the Southampton City Council.

The saliva test, developed by U.K.-based OptiGene, will use a LAMP assay to detect sequences of the novel coronavirus’s genome. The testing group is also exploring the use of other swabless tests, including from Chronomics, Avacta, MAP Science and Oxford Nanoimaging. 

An additional pilot project will work to validate the LAMP saliva test’s accuracy against the standard nasal swab and PCR tests.

“The health, social and economic impacts of lockdown cannot be underestimated, said Keith Godfrey, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Southampton. “Through this initiative, we believe we can contribute to safely restoring economic activity within the city and region during national relaxation measures, whilst enabling people to regain their lives, work and education.”

Originally published by
Connor Hale | June 22, 2020
Fierce Biotech

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Gold Level Contributor

The map colour codes the width of London's pavements

To help public sector and other organisations respond to government guidelines, Esri UK has made new map data available for free as part of its Covid-19 response programme.

Spatial analysis by geographic information system (GIS) software and location intelligence specialist Esri UK has revealed that most pavements around the UK (70 per cent) are less than three metres wide, making it difficult for pedestrians to social distance at the specified two metres apart.

As councils adapt their infrastructure to make walking safer for the public, Esri has released the new map data for free to help the public sector and other organisations respond to government guidelines. It claims more than 30 local authorities are using the new pavement map to date and these include Glasgow City Council, Stirling Council and East Dunbartonshire Council.

Disaster response

Esri used measurements from Ordnance Survey to create the map of all pavement widths, which shows that only 30 per cent of Great Britain’s pavements are at least three metres wide, 36 per cent are between two to three metres and 34 per cent are less than two metres wide.

The map is part of Esri UK’s Covid-19 Disaster Response Programme, created to provide organisations with new mapping and analytical capabilities for free, to help manage their response to the pandemic.

Local authorities are using Esri’s mapping and analysis tools to help adjust their service provision, map vulnerable communities, deploy volunteers and communicate with citizens.

“Easy access to current pavement width data will help all councils make faster decisions with greater certainty and ensure walking is as safe as possible”

“The pavement map is designed to help local authorities and related organisations prioritise their efforts, to ensure the safety of the public, as lockdown restrictions are being gradually eased,” said Paul Clarke, head of Esri UK’s government practice. “By giving them an instant view of the situation they’re faced with, the map reduces the time needed to manually measure pavements and not rely on records which may be out of date.

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Originally published
by SmartCitiesWorld news team | June 5, 2020
Smart Cities World

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Silver Level Contributor

A Premier League ball is sprayed with disinfectant at Wolves’ training complex. Photograph: Wolverhampton Wanderers FC/Getty Images

 

Project Restart has shrunk the sport to an elite pursuit within a sterile bubble, throwing up questions no one can answer

Well done, everyone: we did it. They said it wasn’t possible. They said it wasn’t safe. They said it would be tactless to start up one of the world’s most lucrative sports leagues while thousands are dying. They said it wouldn’t be a fair competition. They may still be right about all of this, of course. More on that in a moment.

But for now, football is back. Watch it. Drink it in. Lose yourself in a pure six-week football bender: 92 Premier League fixtures, spread across every day of the week and every conceivable time slot, all of it live on television, much of it free to air. Take that, null-and-voiders; dry your tears, PPG; up yours, Troy Deeney. Football is back and all it took was the spectre of financial catastrophe and the sight of Germany handling things far more adeptly.

The first point to make is that football is hardly striking out alone. Snooker and horse racing are planning to begin behind closed doors on Monday. Professional golf, cricket and rugby league will be back by August. The resumption of the 2019-20 season was probably a foregone conclusion from the moment the prime minister offered his backing this month and heaven knows the government would be grateful of a little popular distraction right now.

Even so many have been surprised by the speed and bombast which the game has managed to coalesce around the terms of its return. Crisis has a marvellous way of focusing minds. Envy, too. Stung not just by the urgency of the balance sheet but the largely frictionless resumption of the Bundesliga and the resolute noises coming out of Spain and Italy, the 20 Premier League clubs managed to set aside their trademark factionalism for just long enough to approve the contours of Project Restart.

Full contact training was unanimously approved on Tuesday. Thursday brought a provisional schedule, beginning on 17 June with Aston Villa v Sheffield United and Manchester City v Arsenal. On Friday came the announcement of a rescheduled FA Cup final on 1 August. It’s fine to be straightforwardly delighted about this. This, after all, is what we’re here for: the spectacle, the moment, the Barclays.

Read more here

 

Originally posted by:
Jonathan Liew
The Guardian
May 30th, 2020

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Gold Level Contributor

NHS workers have accessed training through virtual, augmented and mixed reality (XR) technology since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, as the health service moved to rapidly upskill its workforce to treat patients with COVID-19.

With access to face-to-face training limited - and the need to equip frontline healthcare workers with COVID-specific skills critical - Bristol-based training company Virti stepped in to deliver remote educational programmes to NHS employees.

Following approval by Health Education England, Virti were able to roll out specially designed COVID-19 modules for use on their immersive training platform - accessible to NHS staff via a virtual reality headset, desktop or smart device. Clinicians from up and down the country accessed the training, with tens of thousands of training sessions recorded.

Virti’s interactive software has been used to upskill clinicians on key areas such as how to safely apply and remove personal protective equipment (PPE), how to navigate an unfamiliar intensive care ward, and how to engage with patients and their families. 

Tom Woollard, West Suffolk Hospital clinical skills and simulation tutor, said: "We've been using Virti's technology in our intensive care unit to help train staff who have been drafted in to deal with COVID-19 demand. The videos which we have created and uploaded are being accessed on the Virti platform by nursing staff, physiotherapists and Operational Department Practitioners (ODPs) to orient them in the new environment and reduce their anxiety. The tech has helped us to reach a large audience and deliver formerly labour-intensive training and teaching which is now impossible with social distancing. In the future, West Suffolk will consider applying Virti tech to other areas of hospital practice."

Virti's technology uses virtual and augmented reality to recreate hospital environments and real patient cases that the user can interact with. The system then uses artificial intelligence to assess users objectively and improve their performance.

XR training has a research-proven positive impact on the confidence and skill retention capacity of medical trainees, with evidence showing that Virti’s training can also be used to reduce stress and burnout. 

Founded by NHS National Innovation Fellow and former NHS trauma surgeon Dr Alexander Young, Virti’s application of data-driven XR was already being used around the world prior to the pandemic.

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Originally published by
Med-Tech News | May 28, 2020

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Silver Level Contributor

Fujitsu sets itself a hard problem as it enters the healthcare market

Supercomputing is the latest technology to join the global search for an effective coronavirus treatment.

Japanese technology company Fujitsu has partnered with US biotech startup Polaris to create a new supercomputer-based drug discovery platform that promises to substantially speed up the process of discovering new treatments for hard-to-treat diseases.

Covid-19 and dengue fever — for which there is also no cure yet — are the first challenges that Fujitsu has set for the platform. Picking these highly public and difficult disease challenges is a way of proving that the new platform has something new and different to offer the pharmaceuticals industry.

“Dengue is a hard nut to crack and a lot of people have tried. Being successful in this area would be a very powerful statement,” says David Snelling, director of Fujitsu’s artificial intelligence programmes, who is leading the UK-based project.

Fujitsu has a lot to prove when it comes to healthcare. This is the company’s first foray back into the industry, since an attempt in the early 2000s to install a new IT system for the UK’s National Health Service went disastrously wrong, resulting in a decade-long legal dispute for Fujitsu. The company was, understandably, nervous about getting into this area again.

“The team in Japan has been looking at the healthcare market for some time. But there was, understandably, this hesitancy in the UK business,” says Snelling.

So how do you launch into a new market — especially when there is so much baggage involved?

Fujitsu’s answer was to do it through a partnership with a startup that could bring in the healthcare expertise that Fujitsu was lacking.

How the technology works

Drug discovery could be an ideal application for Fujitsu’s new digital annealer, a technology that borrows some of the principles of quantum computing but provides them through a supercomputer, available today. Much-hyped quantum computing is still largely at an experimental stage and it could be years before it becomes commercially usable.

“Quantum computing will be real and will be quicker than this when it arrives, but quantum annealers are not yet ready for the primetime. There are no bets when their performance will beat us,” says Snelling.

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Originally published by
Maija Palmer
Tuesday 26 May 2020
Sifted.eu

 

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Gold Level Contributor

The project aims to understand how positively Londoners are responding to interventions

The Odysseus project’s overall goal is to help manage the Covid-19 crisis, inform the return to normality, and act as a springboard to London’s economy in the long term.

Researchers from the Alan Turing Institute in partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) have been mobilised to provide crucial insights to help London authorities during lockdown and support planning for the future after Covid-19 lockdown.

The remit of the project, codenamed ‘Odysseus’, falls under the themes which help to understand “London’s busyness”, and how positively the public are responding to interventions. London is regarded as a “particularly complex and varied environment”, in which to understand how the pandemic has affected people’s lives and how they are responding to it.

Manage the crisis

The project’s overall goal is to help manage the crisis, inform the return to normality, and act as a springboard to London’s economy in the long-term.

The institute was already working on a collaboration with the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL) through the Data-centric Engineering programme, funded by LRF.

Now, working alongside a team of researchers from the universities of Warwick, Cambridge, and UCL, the team has repurposed their existing models, infrastructure, and machine learning algorithms from the air quality work, shifting focus and deploying similar techniques to understand how and when ‘busyness’ is changing across the UK capital in the wider context of Covid-19. Microsoft is a key partner, bringing Azure Cloud and AI services, and expertise, to the project.

Outputs from this research are already providing insights to the GLA’s Strategic Coordination Group (SCG) and Public Health England.

“The data, algorithms, and outputs from our research have the potential to act as an early warning system to trigger different interventions and more targeted policies.”

According to the partners, there has been a significant amount of anecdotal information about how busy parts of London have been during lockdown. The aim of this work is to provide a more consistent picture of behaviour to deliver:

  • a comparison to normal levels of activity
  • a comparison to levels of activity during lockdown (such as, the weeks immediately after 23 March)
  • a greater level of detail on changes in behaviour.

The project is founded on detailed data privacy and ethical protections, with much of the data already in the public domain and other data just looking at high level patterns and trends. Researchers are also using their expertise in detecting “change points” (revealing where and when changes are occurring) and integrating the evidence from a range of heterogeneous data sources to build an intricate and granular model of activity.

“The data, algorithms, and outputs from our research have the potential to act as an early warning system to trigger different interventions and more targeted policies. They can shed light into how the transmission of the virus is driven by human mobility, social interaction and social distancing across the city,” said Theo Damoulas, deputy programme director for the Turing’s Data-centric Engineering programme, and Turing’s lead on this project.

“We are delighted to be collaborating with our university partners, the GLA, TfL and others to provide valuable real-time insights to support planning for London’s managed emergence from the pandemic.”

The research uses open data to help explore information gathered from vehicle and transport movements, traffic cameras, economic activity and data from running apps.

“Bringing together open data gives us another tool to understand how the capital is responding to public health measures.”

The team is also collaborating with London First and the London Data Commission to understand how businesses themselves might use the busyness data to inform their recovery planning.

“City Hall has been doing important work with the Turing on air quality and this is now being repurposed to help deepen our understanding of Londoners’ movements during the lockdown,” added Theo Blackwell, London’s chief digital officer.

“Bringing together open data gives us another tool to understand how the capital is responding to public health measures, as well as how our high streets and shopping centres are doing, as we move from restrictions to recovery.”

Originally published by
SmartCitiesWorld news team | May 14, 2020
Smart Cities World

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Silver Level Contributor

REUTERS

 

People in England should aim to wear face coverings on public transport and in some shops from Wednesday, the UK government has said.

A document outlining the new lockdown rules suggests masks are worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing with others is not always possible.

It is the first time the UK government has issued the advice, but the Scottish government already recommends masks.

People are also allowed to meet one person from another household outside.

It comes as Boris Johnson announced on Sunday a "conditional plan" to begin lifting England's coronavirus lockdown.

Scotland and Wales - which have their own powers over the lockdown - have not changed the advice for people to stay at home, and have rejected No 10's new "stay alert" slogan.

Mr Johnson will speak to Parliament at 15:30 BST on Monday. He will then lead the government's daily Downing Street press briefing which, due to the Commons statement, has been moved to 19:00.
 

Read more here

 

 

Originally posted by:
BBC News
May 11th, 2020

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Silver Level Contributor

Hundreds of people have told MoneySavingExpert.com that they have been rejected by HM Revenue & Customs' eligibility tool for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), despite believing they fit the eligibility criteria.

The tool has told many people that they're not eligible for any help via SEISS, one of the Government's coronavirus support schemes, raising concerns that many people who thought they would be covered would now feel disheartened and not knowing what to do.

Complaints have flooded in over the past 24 hours – including from people whose income is well below the £50,000 earnings threshold. HMRC has told MoneySavingExpert that the tool is working accurately.

Read more here

 

Originally posted by:
Kit Sproson
MoneySavingExpert.com
May 6th, 2020

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Silver Level Contributor

Research has shown millions of renters are choosing between paying rent or putting food on the table during the lockdown. Photograph: Paul Maguire/Alamy Stock Photo

 

Thinktank wants three-month suspension during Covid-19 pandemic to protect financially vulnerable

More than a million renters in Britain risk losing their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic and should be protected by an immediate rent freeze, according to a thinktank.

Calling on the government to suspend all private rents for three months as an emergency measure to protect those most at risk, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) said 1.2 million people living in privately rented homes could fall into severe financial hardship otherwise.

These people are among 5.6 million it identified who will miss out from the government’s Covid-19 job retention scheme, due to having their hours cut or being made redundant rather than being furloughed. It also includes people ineligible for the self-employed income protection scheme.

Read more here 

 

Originally posted by:
Richard Partington
The Guardian
May 4th, 2020

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